Feb. 7, 2008
Story and pix By Ken Krayeske • 6:40 PM EST
Obama's religious revival visits Hartford: Father Barack sermonizes to the prayerful Congresswoman from New Haven, Rosa DeLauro, among the congregation of 17,000.
Ed. Note: This is my print column, written on Feb. 5, run on Feb. 6 in the Hartford News.
Yep. I pulled the lever for Obama this morning. In the pouring rain, I moseyed to Grace Lutheran Church, filled in the appropriate bubble, and cast my vote for the freshman Senator from Illinois.
As I took pictures in the Hartford Civic Center Monday evening and listened to Obama, I was skeptical. I understand it is likely that Teddy "Camelot, Jr." Kennedy knighted Barack and brought him to the Round Table because of a personal grudge against the Clintons.
I understand that most of what Obama promises – affordable college, universal health care, regular raises in minimum wages, raises for teachers, an end to the Iraq War, an end to the War in Afghanistan, 40 mpg fuel standards - he may never deliver upon. But he's talking a language that isn't perpetual warfare, terror and fear.
I also understand that once the primary is over, and the corporate wing of the Democratic Party - the Democratic Leadership Council – assumes control of the Dems' platform, his rhetoric may change. Although Obama is not a member of the DLC, he has taken campaign contributions from them.
Yet, if Obama uses the DLC money to rent the Civic Center and invite 17,000 of his closest friends to come listen to his message of hope, then I'm okay with it. And for this day, I want to enjoy it all.
The evening began with the loudspeakers playing U2's "City of Blinding Lights" – with the chorus "Oh, you look so beautiful tonite." At one point in my life, I paid $175 a ticket to see U2 in that very arena, to sing that very song. The energy of the two moments wasn't much different – except one was free.
One wonders if Bono and the boys approve of Barack using their music, because in the past, rock stars have disagreed with politicos co-opting their message. Bruce Springsteen hated that President Reagan used as a campaign song "Born in the USA," which is more about the death of the American dream at the hands of Reaganomics than anything else.
Last night, Barack invoked those big tent themes of entrepreneurialism that he did in his so-called "Reagan" moment. He also talked, in rather funny terms, about whispering Republicans who support him.
He seems more capable of uniting this country than Clinton or McCain. And as I sat there listening to him talk about his humble beginnings, his law career, his years in office, I tried not be swept up in an emotional, irrational tide of exuberance.
Had I attended the Obama rally in the Meadowlands yesterday, where only 3,000 showed up, I might have a different feeling. But as I cased the Civic Center while taking photos, I studied faces: moms, dads, kids on their shoulders, old, young, college kids, professionals, white, black, latino (although if you looked at the press area, you might still think a sign somewhere said "Whites only").
There were people crying, people shouting, people laughing; people who want a change in Washington, in their nation.
If the American dream has suffered a thousand cuts with a dull knife, from the political assassinations of the 60s, to Vietnam, to Reagan's dirty wars in Central America, to Bush War I, and Bush War II – a war on all of us, Barack seems more than a Band-Aid, he seemed like a homeopath helping us cleanse those wounds.
These rallies aren't new. Ralph Nader in 2000 filled arenas, and people paid $10 or $20 a head to see Nader, Eddie Vedder and Susan Sarandon preach change. And American history is littered with presidential rallies of thousands of people. But before a primary?
Suppose the history we witnessed Monday night was something more than a campaign rally, but a fight for the heart and soul of the Democratic party, and thus our country. Is it Lieberman-Lamont on the national stage?
I know the results will be out by the time this column runs, and I may be, along with thousands of other Obama fans, drowning my sorrows. But I'd prefer to see this as a snapshot in time, and maybe in two months, we'll look back on Monday, Feb. 4 and say, shoot, that was the day that the tide turned in America.
We can't really know what it all means until some time has passed. But what I have learned is that it's okay to feel good about your country. Sometimes, we just need to hear someone tell us that.